Sid Morris got “the shock of my life” when he opened his January gas bill and saw that it was $3,789.08.
He said that was $45.26 more than his gas bill for the entire year in 2011.
“Anybody with any common sense would say something is wrong with that,” said the 81-year-old Alix farmer.
Morris is in an ongoing dispute with the gas supplier, Chain Lakes Gas Co-op of Tees.
Morris also operates Morris Meadows Country Holidays and Seminars from the same location, but said that during the winter months, those facilities aren’t heated.
He said his average annual bill is $380 and that can double during the winter.
After Morris complained about the amount of his gas invoice, he said Chain Lakes Gas Co-op removed the gas meter and had it checked.
Morris said they didn’t find anything wrong with the meter, but replaced it with a new one.
He contends an engineer told him a meter can roll ahead and then continue to work properly again, but there wasn’t any way of determining whether that happened.
Chain Lakes Gas Co-op general manager Sven Sorensen said he believes the Morris property consumed the gas.
He said the January bill was a “catch-up bill,” as the previous two months were estimated.
“The $3,700 bill represents underestimated amounts from November and December,” Sorensen said.
He said Morris doesn’t have a just a home, but also a guest ranch with eight buildings.
Sorensen said the gas line was walked and checked for leaks.
He said if there had been a leak, Morris’s meter would show him still using abnormally high amounts of gas, which wasn’t the case.
“Either the meter malfunctions, you have a leak downstream of the meter, or the consumer burned it — one of the three,” Sorensen said.
He said the chance that the meter rolled ahead on its own is “very remote,” but the company decided to give Morris the benefit of the doubt and returned $1,496.24 to “meet him halfway.”
Morris said that still doesn’t explain why his bill was so high, and he refused to pay the balance.
Morris said he received a disconnect notice from the gas co-op in March.
He paid last month’s portion of the bill and contacted “Go Public,” a CBC news investigative team in Edmonton, to air his concerns.
The TV crew visited Morris’ farm and aired his story.
But the deadlock continues. Morris pays his new monthly charges, but refuses to pay about $800 still owing from his January bill.
Morris said he doesn’t like how the situation was handled, with the only choices being “pay up or be cut off.”
“I should have taken them to court, but that would be time-consuming and costly.
“The annual general meeting of the co-op will be a lot more lively next March.”